No one wants it to happen, but if it does, banks want to be prepared. Fifty years ago bank security meant thicker walls, more guards and complicated locks. Now security has become invisible…and much less effective.
Conventional war is still alive and well, but a cyber war is just as destructive and experts believe banks could be a prime target. Banks are more vulnerable than military targets, and slowing or halting the financial transactions of the US would be as effective as a nuclear weapon. Such an attack would resonate from stock prices to filling up your gas tank.
No Lone Wolves, Now Wolf Packs of Hackers
It’s not that hackers have necessarily become better but more cooperative. The image of hacking usually comes from the film WarGames: a young, genius loner in a room cluttered with cutting-edge technology. Hacking has risen from the limitations of personal computers and laptops. Now hackers are well-funded, state-sponsored and have servers at their command.
To picture it, imagine an assassination. In the old days, the assassin had a single bullet. Now the assassin can fire a bazooka…and it will only get worse. THAT’S why banks are terrified.
Preparing For Technological Terrorism
Observation is the first and best defense against hacker or malware attacks. Employees need to know what to look for, and almost all major banks in the US are training them. Bank of America, JP Morgan, Wells Fargo to name a few.
Before you start fretting over your checking or savings account, stop sweating. Hackers don’t want to mess with individual accounts. Stealing a few thousands or even a few million does not compare to shutting down electronic transactions for an entire day. It would toss the world into 1970, and that’s more damaging than it sounds. Although your checking account might be okay, your retirement savings could disappear.
How Hackers Can Disrupt Banks
To harm the US financial infrastructure, the easiest method is Denial of Service (DoS). This simply doesn’t allow communication between POS (Point of Sale) and the banking institute. Ever had your card declined? Imagine a hundred million people getting their card declined at once. All it takes is a simple cut in communication. This can be accomplished hundreds of different ways. Even cutting a network cable is enough to blackout thousands of accounts, and that only takes wire cutters.
Even the THREAT of a cyber-attack can harm a bank. Banks that do little to prepare for a cyber attack (or dismiss it entirely) have seen their stocks drop since President Obama focused attention on cyber attacks. Now banks are demonstrating to customers and investors that they are prepared for cyber attacks, even creating press releases for drills.
Hackers vs. Banks: A Losing Battle?
The largest worry is that it will be almost impossible for banks to keep up with the world of hacking. It’s an historical imperative that destroying is always easier and faster than creating. Despite banks having billions in resources, they will have a hard time competing with a hacking community that is determined to defeat them.